Carolina: Cruising Past 70

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Two Astonishing Days in Victoria on Vancouver Island

We took the 9 am ferry which meant we had to wake up at 6 am, have breakfast, shower, and be at the Tsawassen ferry dock (past Vancouver about forty kilometers west of the US border) at 8 am. The drive took about 45 minutes, the loading took about thirty minutes, and the ferry ride was about one and a half hours. It was 11:30 am when we stepped onto the city of Victoria on Vancouver Island, British Columbia.

Fan Tan Alley in Chinatown
Day One

The small Chinatown, the oldest in Canada, was just two blocks from our hotel. There was really only one block with two rows of Chinese restaurants offering lots of Asian food, including Vietnamese. But we soon discovered that China was wrapped in a little secret, the narrow Fan Tan Alley which housed two rows of little shops, including the Umbrellatorium and Canery, a store of different types of umbrellas and canes, like the Umbrellation of Vancouver’s Chinatown. Because we would be visiting this bigger one, we refrained from buying anything. Still, we delighted at rehearsing to buy. 

About a mile away west and right on the harbor stands the beautiful British Columbia Provincial Legislature. Yes, you heard that right. The legislature of the province of British Columbia is on Government Street, in Victoria on Vancouver Island. It is not in the big city of Vancouver, as most people assume. Victoria is the provincial capital.  
Harbor of Victoria, BC

The waterfront looked very pretty with many big and small ferries coming and going and boats of all colors docked. I was happy they were mostly yellow! However, we couldn’t wait to go into the Empress Hotel which makes a pretty corner with the Legislature. We quickly took a few selfies to mark our visit of the Legislature and Harbor but we couldn’t stay a whole lot longer. The winds were strong at18-20 mph.

Afternoon Tea at The Empress

Besides, we had reserved the famous Afternoon Tea at the Empress at 5:45 PM, the last seating. Yes, it was comparable to the two others we have had, both the best in their cities: one at the Ritz Carlton in London and the other at the Mandarin Oriental in Hongkong. I loved my chamomile tea selection served in a white ceramic teapot that rested on a matching ceramic pot warmer. The tri-glass timer allowed me to select the steeping time:  short, medium, or long. And our “thrones” were beside the piano where great music was being played. The scones, finger sandwiches, and sweets on each of the three tiers were not only good but plentiful. We even had a box of left-overs to take to our hotel at the end.

Day Two

a flower in the early morning at Butchart Gardens

Upon waking the next day, we quickly checked out because we planned to explore the Butchart Gardens most of the day because it is on the way to the ferry terminal. We quickly realized that it was also perfect to go at the opening hour of 8:45 am since all the flowers had just been watered. Crystalline drops embellished each petal.

the Hampton Water Fountain

the Rose Garden's Arches
There are five gardens. There were only a few tourists with us in the first one, the best of them all, the Sunken Garden (see headline photo). As we turned the corner, we were greeted with a spectacular view. We are told it is different for every season. The lovely path led us next to the Hampton Water Fountain before we reached the Rose Garden. We tried to get our pictures with the rose arches as a backdrop but by then the tourist buses had added hundreds to the growing crowd.

We stopped at the kiosk beside the Grand Carousel. And, as we munched our chips, the path led us to the Japanese Garden. This is probably the one I loved the most, so peaceful, so calming, and so Zen. Right then I regretted not visiting the Japanese Garden in Seattle when I lived there for three years. I promised myself, after immensely enjoying this, that I would always spend time in the Japanese Gardens of the cities we visit. As
As we were leaving, we came upon a peek-a-boo clearing through the bushes. It was a lovely sneak view of the boats on the harbor.

the Japanese Garden
The Italian Garden features the five-star pond and the fine dining restaurant with views of the Rose Garden, too. It also had the only enclosed private garden, the favorite of Mrs. Butchart, the founder. It was time for late lunch and we sat at the Dining Room which is the fine dining option. We chose wagyu beef and chicken fillets on beds of veggies and nuts. Then we went to the gift shop to look for unique finds.

The Mediterranean Garden seemed like a last-minute small addition, sitting next to the Parking lot. But it became an exclamation point to our visit because there we found a tree with large unique leaves that looked like huge green roses. 

The day we spent at Butchart Gardens was so well worth the time and money. I have gotten to love gardens a lot. At home, I discovered I might have a green little finger (not yet a thumb). I delight in thinking that we may be nurturing our gardens, but in reality, they give back to us so much more. Gardens are truly the ones that nurture us.

Mrs. Butchard's private garden

PS We were able to stay far into the afternoon, at the Gardens because the ferries run far into the night. We rode on a smaller ferry coming in but, going back, we rode the bigger, more comfortable Spirit of Vancouver. I had a great window seat so the unfolding scenes entertained me a lot. And the ship had a gift shop with a great sale going on. I bought a fashionable top that originally was $110 for just $30. And so I was happy even if we were met by a traffic jam on the way back to the city of Vancouver.

the Vancouver-Victoria ferry

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